Cartography and Children

Studies from Three Continents

4505.3 - Students’ Cognitive Perception of Landscape Features: Empirical Research Using Cognitive Maps

Tuesday, July 4
2:10 PM - 2:30 PM
Location: Virginia C

In the second half of the twentieth century, many cartographic theorists dealt with the principles of transferring information within the cartographic communication system and with key components of this system. Far fewer researchers have addressed how maps as media for transferring coded messages from the cartographer to the user impact the expansion of users’ perceptions of geographical reality and their mental images. Limitations in perception, selection, and interpretation on the part of both cartographers and map users have led to discrepancies between geographical reality on the one hand and users’ perception of reality on the other. This study primarily focuses on students’ spatial perception of landscape features. For empirical testing, we selected a sample group of primary-school and secondary-school students that had already engaged in some degree of abstract spatial conceptualization and had encountered these matters in both everyday life and in school. It was shown that the development of spatial imagery, conceptualizations, and evaluations is influenced by the home environment, school, the media, and the social system. Individuals’ perceptions also depend on their age, personal characteristics, and physical limitations.
Questionnaires were administered to Slovenian students and they drew cognitive maps; these research methods were used to determine the kinds of conceptions that children of different age groups had developed about landscape features. Analysis of cognitive maps was selected because these most faithfully represent individuals’ internalized mental images. Similar to how a map is not an actual reflection of geographical reality due to technical limitations and the cartographer’s subjectivity, cognitive maps are also not a completely faithful representation of the mental image of those that draw them because they also reflect cartographic experience, values, and one’s mood at the time.
We checked the cognitive depictions of students’ mental world using a blank outline map of Slovenia. The students’ task was to draw or write special features and characteristics of Slovenian landscapes on it that they might like to show to a new friend from abroad that is unfamiliar with Slovenia. Their pictures were a good approximation of their spatial vision or their understanding of nearby and more distant landscapes, locationally (im)precise positioning of features in space, and also an expression of concepts that they had learned in school and the influence of their home environment.
Analysis of the differences in perceiving space and in the drawing techniques used for the cognitive maps by the students, who ranged in age from ten to seventeen, yielded several results. From the cartographic perspective, compared to secondary-school students primary-school students tended to also draw their concepts, and they also colored their maps. In cases where landscape features were drawn, the students most often used abstract point symbols (dots, circles, and crosses), for line symbols they used solid lines, and for area symbols they used uncolored shapes. There were hardly any perceptible differences between the sexes in the choice of cartographic symbols.
Perhaps it was incorrectly anticipated that the students would primarily draw places that were more familiar to them. However, the analysis showed that the students most often included the same labels on their maps regardless of where they attended school. With regard to content, the differences in perception between primary-school and secondary-school students were less significant than anticipated. The three features most frequently highlighted by both groups of students were Mount Triglav (Slovenia’s highest peak and a national symbol), Postojna Cave, and the capital city, Ljubljana. Their pictures also reflected concepts they had learned in school when they marked features that cannot be pointed to in the natural world, such as the borders of physical geographical regions.

Dušan Petrovič

Head of Chair of Cartography, Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering

Assistant professor Dušan Petrovič, lecturer and researcher for cartography at University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering, serving also as vice dean for education. His previous employment was at Geodetic institute of Slovenia where he worked on establishment of Sloevnian National Cartographic and Topographic System. Guest professor at University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences,and Faculty of Architecture, University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Civil Engineering (BIH) and Technical University of Graz (AUT). Chair of Cartographic section at Surveying Association of Slovenia, national representative of Slovenia in ICA and Chair of ICA Commission on Mountain Cartography. Former long time president and vice president of Slovenian Orienteering Federation. Research fields: Map production, Topographic cartography, Map use, navigation with maps, National topographic maps and datasets, NSDI, 3D topographic visualization, Cartography in education.

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Jerneja Fridl

Ph.D.
Anton Melik Geographical Institute, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Jerneja Fridl, PhD, received her master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering. She is employed as a researcher at the Anton Melik Geographical Institute, one of the eighteen research institutes at the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU).
After her bachelor’s degree, she started specializing in digital thematic cartography. In 1994 she became the head of the Department of Thematic Cartography at the Anton Melik Geographical Institute. This position enabled her to complement her knowledge of cartography with humanities-oriented expertise, especially in social and physical geography. Alongside with her colleagues in geography, she has participated in nine international projects and twenty-one Slovenian projects, among which she has headed five. She was also invited to join the editorial committee for the national atlas, Geografski atlas Slovenije (Geographical Atlas of Slovenia).
For the past eight years she has also been engaged as the assistant director at ZRC SAZU. This entire time she has remained faithful to her love of cartography and geography. Her continuing engagement in research work is testified to by her authorship or co-authorship of seven monographs, twenty-seven articles, and twenty-two independently written parts or chapters of individual monographs. She has created 426 thematic maps and has co-authored four thematic atlases.
In 2002, she received a bronze plaque from the Association of geographers of Slovenia.
From 2003 to 2010, she taught the course GIS in tematska kartografija (GIS and Thematic Cartography) as an assistant instructor in the University of Primorska’s Faculty of Humanities in Koper.
Despite her many professional obligations, in 2011 she decided to continue her education, and in 2016 she received her PhD with the dissertation Vsebina in načela oblikovanja šolskih zemljevidov (Content and Principles in Creating School Maps).

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